Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog


Mr McElroy Speaks…Says Nothing

Coincidentally, while I was writing the last post, Jack McElroy was also writing on his blog, The Up Front Page. He was reacting to the questions my wife and I, as well as others, are asking, namely, why didn't the KNS know about this a long time ago? And if they did, why didn't they publish?

In his answer, he reposted the question from Lissa, as well as Satterfield's response during the chat, then added the following:

When Satterfield broke the news that the TBI was investigating Baumgartner, she reported that he had appeared disoriented at the end of the Coleman trial. That report apparently triggered a subpoena for her testimony at the hearing over the motion for new trials in the Christian-Newsom case. The subpoena was waived after attorneys agreed that any testimony she gave would match what she reported in the story.

As it turned out, there was plenty of evidence of Baumgartner's problems beyond what a newspaper reporter could see from a courtroom bench.

That's the best he could do? Once again pointing his finger at the other people who should have done something, all the while refusing to notice that he and his staff also did nothing?

The phrase that really gets me is the last one, "...there was plenty of evidence of Baumgartner's problems beyond what a newspaper reporter could see from a courtroom bench." Is it too much to expect from our newspaper that its reporters occasionally get their butts up off the bench and actually do some real investigating? Or is that too hopelessly old fashioned?

Let's be clear; the newspaper does not have a responsibility to see that justice is done. That's the domain of the justice system. But the newspaper does have a responsibility to report the news, and to look for corruption in government before it becomes blindingly obvious and prohibitively expensive. And for future reference, a judge passing out during the delivery of a verdict in a major trial qualifies as blindingly obvious.

I left a comment on Mr. McElroy's post, a slight reworking of the tail end of my last post. I'll put it here just in case it doesn't make it through moderation:

Mr. McElroy, I appreciate that you are willing to address this issue openly, but your answer is lacking. While it is true that many people knew about Mr. Baumgartner's drug problem, it is irrelevant to the question of whether or not the News Sentinel should also have known.

Your paper is supposed to be the watchdog of the people. One of your highest functions, as you wrote so eloquently in your blog about the subpoena process, is to shine the light on local government, and to hold them accountable. The TBI report makes it very clear that many people in city and county government were aware of Baumgartner's drug use. It is just as clear that a fairly wide array of folks outside of the government knew as well; his doctor, his suppliers, his pharmacists, etc. Others were aware of how he was bending/breaking laws to protect his dealers, and other associates. In fact, what the TBI file makes most clear is that it appears that the only people who didn't know what was going on were employed by the News Sentinel.

So, how did your paper fail so badly at its primary function? How can so many people know about a prominent judge who is also a junkie, and your paper miss the story entirely? Why is it that you needed the TBI to release its investigation in order to find out what was going on when you had one of your senior reporters right there the whole time? More importantly, what steps are you taking to improve your performance?

On the other hand, if you believe that the KNS did a good job, then tell us why. How is it that you can miss criminal activity by a prominent judge that extends over a period of years and still claim that the KNS is doing its job?

Or to put it another way, what good is a newspaper that fails to find out and report the news?

Posted by Rich Hailey at December 5, 2011 7:51 PM
Posted by Rich
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